The reality of menopause weight gain by Jane Michell, Founder of Jane Plan
If like me, you’ve experienced some unwelcome weight gain around the menopause years, and you’re finding it hard to shift, don’t despair – it’s not impossible! Many women gain weight as they age, but extra pounds aren't inevitable and with the help of a healthy diet and a few lifestyle changes, we can all enjoy a happier, healthier, and slimmer, future – both during and after the menopause years!
As we get older, most of us notice that staying at our usual weight becomes harder. It's common to start noticing weight gain a few years before menopause, during the time known as perimenopause and the weight gain commonly continues at about the rate of 1.5lbs each year as we go through our 50s. But you may be able to minimize it by paying attention to healthy eating habits and leading a more active lifestyle.
What causes menopause weight gain?
The hormonal changes of menopause tend to make it more likely we’ll gain weight around the middle part of our bodies, rather than the hips and thighs. But, contrary to popular belief hormonal changes alone don't necessarily cause weight gain. Instead, it's usually related to ageing, as well as lifestyle and genetic factors.
For example, muscle mass typically goes down with age, while fat tends to increase. Losing muscle mass slows the rate at which the body uses calories – in other words our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMI) declines. This process can make it more difficult to stay at a healthy weight and if you continue to eat as you always have (and don't do more physical activity), you're likely to gain weight. Most of us become less active as we age. Paying attention to our activity and trying to move more may help us maintain a healthy weight.
Genetic factors also might play a role in weight gain around menopause. If your parents or other close relatives carry extra weight around the abdomen, you probably will too.
Other factors, such as eating too much, or eating a diet that isn't healthy and not getting enough sleep, might contribute to menopause weight gain. When we don't get enough sleep, we tend to snack more and eat and drink more calories.
How risky is this weight gain?
Menopause weight gain can have serious effects on our health. Extra weight, especially around your midsection, increases our risk of many health issues, including:
· Cardiovascular disease
· Type 2 diabetes
· Aches and pains in our joints
· Mental health and confidence issues
Extra weight also raises your risk of some kinds of cancer, including breast, colon and endometrial cancers.
What's the best way to prevent menopause weight gain?
There's no magic formula for preventing — or reversing — menopause weight gain. But sticking to weight-control basics can help:
· Eat less. To keep your current weight, you might need about 200 fewer calories a day during your 50s than you did during your 30s and 40s. Losing weight might mean taking in even fewer calories. At Jane Plan we recommend a calorie intake of c 1200 calories a day for a healthy weight loss of 1-2lbs a week and our menus are designed to deliver exactly that! To get fewer calories without skimping on nutrition, pay attention to what you're eating and drinking. Choose more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, especially those that are less processed and contain more fibre. In general, a plant-based diet is healthier than other options. Legumes, nuts, soy, fish and low-fat dairy products are good choices. Eat meat in limited quantities. And lower your intake of saturated fat.
· Check your sweet tooth. Added sugars can account for nearly 300 calories a day in the average diet. About half of these calories come from sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soft drinks, juices, energy drinks, flavoured waters, and sweetened coffee and tea. And even if you are not eating or drinking these items – you may well be drinking wine, or other alcoholic drinks, which tend to be high in sugar.
· Limit alcohol. Alcoholic drinks add extra calories to your diet and raise the risk of gaining weight. In fact, alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, and if you compare that to fat, which contains 9 calories per gram, you can easily see why a daily wone habit can really harm our waistlines. Not to mention the fact that willpower is soluble in alcohol.
· Seek support. Surround yourself with friends and loved ones who support your efforts to eat a healthy diet and increase your physical activity. Better yet, team up and make the lifestyle changes together. At Jane Plan we have a team of dedicated nutritionists to support you, so if you don’t have anyone in your own circle who can play that role – then we can. And with the added benefit of the fact that we really know what we’re talking about!!
· Move more. You heard it here – you hear it everywhere, but the reality is exercise only contributes c 20% to your weight loss journey – the other 80% is all about what and how much you eat. But moving brings all sorts of other benefits! Physical activity, including aerobic exercise and strength training, may help you lose extra pounds and stay at a healthy weight. As you gain muscle, your body burns calories better, which makes it easier to control your weight. Find time to take care of yourself. Activities that you enjoy doing can help you get exercise. This can include gardening, yoga or other active hobbies.
Moving more also may help you sleep better. That can make it easier to exercise more.
Does hormone therapy help to lessen weight gain?
Hormone therapy usually is used to help with hot flushes that affect quality of life. This treatment also may help redistribute the fat that accumulates around the centre of your body or abdomen. That type of fat is called visceral fat. And hormone therapy may help you manage your weight by improving sleep, which can lead to healthier lifestyle changes.
Remember, gaining weight during menopause is common, so embracing the changes to your body that come with menopause can help your mental health. But you may be able to ease weight gain by changing your diet and exercise habits. Commit to lifestyle changes and enjoy a healthier you.
‘I know all too well how depressing weight gain can be during the menopause years, but with the right help, it is perfectly possible to prevent weight gain, and in the event, you do gain weight, don’t worry, I also know it can be reversed.'
Jane Michell is Founder of Jane Plan the UK's leading weight management system.
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